There are several reasons why barrel-aged beers aren’t available year-round. They are expensive to produce, occupy precious space, and take a lot of time before they’re ready for consumption. Boulevard Brewing Company, however, eschews tradition to offer not one, but two barrel-aged beers year-round. The first, Bourbon Barrel Quad, launched in 2016 as part of the Kansas City brewery’s Smokestack Series, which is “a collection of bigger, bolder, more complex beers.” In 2017, the brewery added Whiskey Barrel Stout to the series.
Whiskey Barrel Stout pours pitch black. Blink and you might miss its beige head, which is gone before you can pull out your phone to snap a picture. The ominous appearance matches its aroma—pure, boozy whiskey—giving away the beer’s 11.8% ABV. Let Whiskey Barrel Stout sit for a minute, and you’ll pick up notes of dark fruit, licorice, and leather. There is also a hint of vanilla in the background.
For a barrel-aged beer to stand out in today’s saturated market, it needs to have a level of complexity that you can only get from a barrel.”
When trying to describe this beer’s flavor, I keep coming back to the word “balance.” It has all the notes you’d expect from an imperial stout—bitter cocoa, roasted coffee, and dates—but it’s not overly sweet. It has a full body with very little carbonation.
In terms of widely available barrel-aged beers, is Whiskey Barrel Stout good? Definitely. But for a barrel-aged beer to stand out in today’s saturated market, it needs to have a level of complexity. Whiskey Barrel Stout just doesn’t rise to the occasion. It’s good, but I wish it was better. To put it another way, it’s like the Netflix show you put on because you can’t decide what to watch. It’s good and safe, so it won’t disappoint. But it also won’t keep you from scrolling through Instagram instead.